We’ve known it for years: Nothing is more effective than word of mouth marketing. Nielsen repeatedly drives home this message in its annual survey of audience preferences for advertising. Sharing information through personal networks is by far the best way to a get a message across and move people in meaningful ways.

Recruiters, however, have missed the memo.

In fact, while companies clamor to find the best talent through job postings, online ads and in-person networking, they often overlook their top tool for recruitment: current employees.

According to a new data report from Bambu by Sprout Social, companies that implement strict social media policies are mismanaging resources and preventing their HR teams from creating a pipeline of talent. These companies are also doing a great deal of damage to current workers in the process by making them disenfranchised in shaping their company’s culture.

Consider this: 44.5% of people say they are more likely to apply for a job if they discovered it through a friend’s social feed rather than some other medium. Meanwhile, only 9.4% of employees say they use social media to help their company with recruitment.

Where is the disconnect? And how can recruiting and talent teams bridge the gap?

To start, most employees (77.3%) don’t feel encouraged to share company news on their personal social profiles at all. More revealing, 15.6% are actually afraid to share anything about their company on social media, fearing they might make a misstep that could cost them their job.

The problem appears to be twofold:

  1. Companies have failed to make social media a priority throughout their organization.
  2. Companies do not empower employees to speak out on their organization’s behalf.

It’s not a lack of desire on the employee’s part either. In fact, Sprout’s data shows that 3 in 4 employees want their company to keep them more updated about what’s going on. Employees say this will not only make them more successful at their job (42%) but also more committed to the company as a whole (36%) and more likely to share information with their networks (17.8%).

With so many people hoping to be more engaged, companies that don’t empower their employees to digest and share information are effectively shooting themselves in the foot.

Recruiters’ misplaced efforts are also costing their companies money. According to a report on social recruiting by Jobvite, employee referrals have a 40% conversion rate, a tactic that most employers say makes the whole recruitment process much more efficient and cost effective.

What can be done to boost your organization’s social recruiting efforts?

First, make it easy for employees to read and share information. A central hub of curated content, powered by a formal employee advocacy platform such as Bambu by Sprout Social, will make your distribution efforts seamless and measurable.

bambu employee advocacy

Second, consider your employees’ perspectives. While most are interested in staying abreast of the latest news at their organization, incentivizing them to take the extra step to share that information requires you to think in terms of WIFM (what’s in it for me?). Employees need to understand and value the importance of personal branding, which today more than ever rests on deep social participation. By targeting industry-relevant content to different segments within your organization, you can start to position your people as experts in their respective fields; all they have to do is regularly read and share your company’s curated content across their social networks.

Finally, reinforce your advocacy program through ongoing education and perhaps even some old-school tactics, such as promotional posters around the office that feature testimonials from individuals about the program’s personal benefits.

The result of this ongoing investment will be a steady stream of talent, as your employees naturally share job openings alongside relevant industry information. After all, the act of socially sharing an employment opportunity should be viewed as beneficial in and of itself.

But there will be another important byproduct of this effort: Your current workforce will be more engaged. This isn’t just a warm-and-fuzzy idea either. In fact, it directly impacts the bottom line. Gallup estimates that each year US companies lose between $450 billion and $550 billion due to actively disengaged employees. Meanwhile, ClickZ shows that organizations with highly engaged employees reduce turnover by 87% and improve performance by 20%.

Companies therefore need to relinquish some control of social—and soon. Just as social media doesn’t belong solely to the marketing department, social recruiting doesn’t belong solely to recruiters. Wise talent officers will wake up and realize that while they may be the overseers of a larger social recruiting strategy, the agents who will make the most change are the very people they attracted in the first place. Your organization already vetted them during the interview process; now trust them to speak out on your behalf.

This post was originally published on Bambu by Sprout Social.